What were your reasons for switching from tube to solid state preamps?

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by Mcrelly, Oct 16, 2003.

  1. Mcrelly


    Jun 16, 2003
    Minnesota, USA
    If you have previously owned tube preamps, why did you go solid state? Explain the difference in tone and on stage tone changes.

    What do you miss about tubes?
  2. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    The weight :meh:

    Tone can vary a lot between any two preamps, whether tubes or not. I never noticed anything special about tube preamps; tube power, sure...more grind, compression...but in the preamp it matters little tonally to my ears.

    100% tube pres usually have pretty simple EQ, which is good or bad depending on how much you like/need to tweak the EQ on stage. Fender style pres (which includes Mesa, Alembic, Kern, the cheaper Aguilar) are boost only on bass and treble and cut only on midrange (making 1-10-1 a "flat" EQ setting) while most solid state pres offer boost/cut...this makes a HUGE difference in the sort of EQ options you have. On the other hand, having simple 2/3 band EQ may make it easier to dial things in on stage compared to solid state pres with 4+ bands, parametric sweeps, "contours" and "enhancers", etc.

    Your ears may vary.

    The weight :D
  3. vanselus


    Sep 20, 2000
    Boulder, CO
    McRelly, what is it that you don't like about your sound? What do you want to sound like?

    The reason I ask is because for the last few months it seems like you're really searching. Buying up amps and cabs, then realizing that's not your bag and in frustration, publicly ripping on the manufacturer. What are you looking for? There's a lot of wisdom here, and lots of us who have gone through the same struggles. Let us help, instead of blindly stabbing based on people's own rave reviews. The sound in their head probably isn't the same as the one you're striving for...

    and to keep this on topic, i normally gig with either a DB680/DB728 (as tube as you can get) or the iAMP 800 (ss). If anything the tubes are punchier and brighter in a different way. The iAMP is easier to manage, weighs 80 lbs less, and has double the wattage. Tight and clear, but very businesslike. The Aguilar is fatter and more aggressive.

    if you want more colorful descriptions, ask Joker :D
  4. NJL


    Apr 12, 2002
    San Antonio
  5. Mcrelly


    Jun 16, 2003
    Minnesota, USA
    I still feel I'm new at finding 'my sound'. if i knew what it was, I'D GET IT! I want more control over my mids and my swr mid control is weak and narrow range (is this what you consider ripping on a manufacturer?) also I recently had a revelation that "The tone or sound that works on stage is NOT necessarily what sounds good playing solo or practicing alone." I sort of knew this when I'd get home after playing with the band and think "wow, I really had the mids up!" or "not as much bass as I thought I'd need on stage".

    The tone/sound I recently heard was the difference between using my swr as a pre, the RBI as an effect, the swr amp section for amplification AND BYPASSING swr pre, go in RBI, then swr SS power section. this latter connection worked better on stage it seemed more compressed than going through the tube pre. when I'd go through the tube it seemed I had less mids and had to raise volume higher to hear definition of notes?

    To set the record straight I've only bought 3 cabs from two different manufacturers. I am now trying to follow my own advice below before I buy. but I still need the opinions and experience from those who've use different equipment than I.

    I can learn more from negative reviews than I can from politically correct, don't piss off the manufacturers because they hang out here at TB, comments. I never tried to piss them off anyway. I resent the fact that there are people here on this board that won't let the little guy have his opinion. I am not posting just to here myself talk, I honsetly want to find equipment thats right for me.

    Another thing, vanselus, why do you have to twist my name? I don't butcher yours? I wanted to respect you for the basstasters thing, but if your just going to rip me forget it!
  6. Yggdrasil


    Aug 16, 2001

    Are you talking about the upper case "R" ?
  7. vanselus


    Sep 20, 2000
    Boulder, CO
    Yeah seriously man, if it's Mcrelly instead of McRelly then I apologize. I'm not sure how a capital added is "butchering" your name.

    So now we're getting somewhere - more midrange control and a good stage sound. You're SO right. Quite a few people on TB only play "living-room bass" so their needs are very different from us giggers. Where do you play? Your profile says "church". If that's true, and you only gig at church, then your needs are VERY different from people who play bar gigs. Trust me, i've been a church bassist for a long time.

    Right now you're using the SWR 350, Sansamp RBI, and the two Aggie 12's? If I understand you correctly, the sound is too indestinct and you can't be heard real well on stage, right? And what bass are you using?
  8. alexclaber

    alexclaber Commercial User

    Jun 19, 2001
    Brighton, UK
    Director - Barefaced Ltd
    Please don't take this the wrong way but I think you'll find your sound much quicker if you stopped worrying about gear. I know that might sound perverse but since I've found 'my' sound I can get it out of pretty much any bass and amp combination. I've also noticed that when I was 'searching' every time I changed my rig the search was set back rather than moved forwards. Once you've found your sound you can then get a rig that just adds the final touches.

    So many fretless players rave about Jaco's sound and try to emulate it but I don't see anyone using an Acoustic 360 - does that mean he was frustrated with his gear not letting him get his sound, or does that mean they can't get 'the' sound, or do they all get 'the' sound despite using a variety of rigs?

  9. metron

    metron Supporting Member

    Sep 12, 2003
    Although Im not actually answering your question I have found that I wanted both tube and ss sound. I have one of each and Im in tonal nirvana! To me tubes can be more organic and alive. Solid state is obviously much more clean but some hardcore tube folks claim ss sounds sterile to them. I need both! :D :bassist:
  10. Mcrelly


    Jun 16, 2003
    Minnesota, USA
    I figured you were making a McDonald's joke out of my name...but I can be moody too...

    At church we sometimes play loud, definitly not as loud as a bar band, but maybe around 100dBc. sometimes I feel drowned out on stage and I reach for the volume or mid knob. I also don't like alot of finger noise so treble and upper mids are turned down which makes it harder to bring out just enough BWWAAAAA in my notes without getting TWANGY if you know what I mean?

    I use a G&L SB-1 passive pbass.
  11. alexclaber

    alexclaber Commercial User

    Jun 19, 2001
    Brighton, UK
    Director - Barefaced Ltd
    When you say 'finger noise' what exactly do you mean? Squeaks from the left hand, clicks from the frets, clanking from the right hand on the pickups and last fret? Maybe if you can clean up your technique you'll be able to leave the treble and high mids flat so you get that bwwaaaaa without the twang.

  12. vanselus


    Sep 20, 2000
    Boulder, CO
    If you're playing a passive P-bass you're not ever going to make it sound NOT like a passive p-bass. Sure you can eq the heck out of it and change the sound considerably, but my guess is that the passive p-bass sound is what you're trying to get away from. Have you used different basses in that gig setting?

    what kind of sanctuary is it? brick? big? small? gym? :)
  13. Nightbass


    May 1, 2001
    Seattle, WA
    Hmm, P-Bass and GS-112 sounds like a muddy combination to begin with, even with the relative brightness of the Bass 350. My 2 cents is that you'd want a cab that cuts through better, like a pair of Bag End S-15D. The Bags are also more efficient than that Aggies so you'll gain a little more volume.

    As far as the Bass 350, mine was a love and hate affair. For starters, it needs a different tube in the front end to tame the harshness and schreechiness and warm it up. Search the TB archives for info.

    The Berg 112 would certainly give you mids you are looking for, but they cost a lot more than the Bag Ends and also need a bit more power than you have.

    If you need a more percussive cab, then I'd recommend a Bag End D10BX-D, either alone or with a S15-D.
  14. Dan Knowlton

    Dan Knowlton Sometimes you're the dog, sometimes the tree Gold Supporting Member

    Aug 12, 2002
    Palm Coast, FL
    I went the route of SWR to Alembic F1-X to Aguilar DB-659 to Glockenklang. The reason for the switches was to get the clarity I wanted without the added sound of the tube. I like my bass to sound like itself, only louder... and that is what I get with the Glock.

    For the Alembic, Aguilar, and Glockenklang HeartCorer I used one of the Epifani original 2x12's - a beast to carry but great sound. When I put it together with the Glock it just sounded right.

    I think that if I take care of equipment issues then I only have myself to blame. The clarity of the system and basses I use makes me focus on technique to make my bass sound right.

    The bottom line is that finding your sound is a process and I have to admit that I made a lot more progress toward getting it when I focussed on how I was producing the sound. Having great equipment was just a bonus.

    Dan K.
  15. Petebass


    Dec 22, 2002
    QLD Australia
    Mcrelly check your PM's when you get a chance :)
  16. IvanMike

    IvanMike TTRPG enthusiast, Happy, Joyous, & Free. Supporting Member

    Nov 10, 2002
    Middletown CT, USA
    to me the tube sound is a lot more "alive".....usually
    some ss pres are great
    the rbi definitely has a "compressed" sort of sound to it - i have a love/hate affair with that
    i'd say the p-bass may be the culprit
    i hate p-basses.........but in this case i'm not specifically trashing the p-bass....it's just very hard/impossible to get away from "that" sound when you use one.......definitely not the poster child for clarity or ability to cut thru
    a 2 pickup arrangement would probably do ya wonders
    one exception is the music man sterling...that switch that toggles between series/parallel/single coil yeilds a ton of tones
  17. jobu3

    jobu3 ¿Huevos?! Supporting Member

    Feb 17, 2002
    Mountain Top, PA
    first of all, chill out a bit dude. we're not out to get you here... ;)

    now, aside from tube vs. solid state which you will have to check out for yourself (like in your sig), or the tonal quality of your bass, perhaps you need more power as well. you said that you play pretty loud and only use the 350's power section at times with the RBI as the pre- this in effect can work but why not try ditching the 350 for a PA style power amp and hit those aggies with more of what they need... clean power. they will thank you for it and your tone will too, i think. besides, you already like the RBI from what i can gather. personally, my biggest concerns with the bass 350 were about volume when it was my main rig... it would get all muddy in itself and cut out at times. it also didn't fare well down at the 2 ohm load even with clipping precautions... i know you are concerned about weight, so maybe a qsc PLX (21 lbs.), or peavey or stewart 1 space rack is in order.

    now if you go that route and you find that the bass is not the problem, and the preamp is not the problem, and your power section is not the problem, maybe you should try tens or (as previously stated) clean up your technique which i think is as much a culprit as anything with most players, myself included. ;)
  18. jobu3

    jobu3 ¿Huevos?! Supporting Member

    Feb 17, 2002
    Mountain Top, PA
    let us know what you decide and how you fare with it... ;)
  19. Mcrelly


    Jun 16, 2003
    Minnesota, USA
    sorry, I was away for a few days on a fall vacation to the "north shore" of Minnesota.
    Lake Superior at Gooseberry State Park.

    anyway the main point I was trying to get at with THIS thread was my curious observation of the difference between having an SWR 350 tube pre at the front of the signal chain OR just the RBI. And the impact that it seems to have on the sound mixed with the band vs. solo sound. Using the RBI with the SS section of the 350 was cutting through better than with the tube section and I was wondering if anyone else came to these same conclusions for themselves also.

    I don't know if I've been using the term "cutting through" in the wrong way, but I mean I can hear my guitar and notes in a manner and tone that is satisfying and dicernable to ME and I assume the nearby band members hear it better if i can.

    to reiterate the question..."if you prefere to play with solid state preamps and amps, on stage, instead of tubes, Why?"
  20. IvanMike

    IvanMike TTRPG enthusiast, Happy, Joyous, & Free. Supporting Member

    Nov 10, 2002
    Middletown CT, USA
    well if it comes to power amps it's almost always the weight
    tube power amps sound really nifty, but sometimes they aren't quite as "tight" sounding and are sometimes a little shy in the bass (same as they are in home audio setups)
    as far as preamps it's strictly a matter of taste, no real reason otherwise except what sound do you like?
    and that's not necesarily a tube ve ss thing, different preamps sound very different
    like i might have said, the demeter preamp with 2 tubes isnt quite as "tight" sounding as the h series which uses 1 tube and runs the output with a ss component
    tubes aren't always superior, the Neve preamp (knocked off by many companies for studio use) is all solid state and sounds like GOD. I hear that Epifani is making 2 preamps now, one is tube and the other is solid state. It will be interesting to hear the difference between the 2. Also, Hartke and Mesa both make amps where you can mix the sound from side by side tube pres and solid state pres in the unit.
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